FODMAPs: Have you seen this unusual acronym in the news lately? Or perhaps someone has mentioned that he or she is following a low FODMAP or FODMAP-free diet. So, what is it?
FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligo-saccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. Now, does that clear everything up? No? Well, here’s what it all means in practical terms.
Fermentable: foods that are broken down in the intestines and produce gases.
Oligo-saccharides: 2 groups- Fructo (FOS) and Galacto (GOS)
FOS is found in most gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye, barley, and some vegetables like onions and garlic. GOS is found in legumes like beans and soy.
Disaccharides: Lactose, found in dairy, and sucrose found in sugar cane and sugar beets. Refined sugar is 100% sucrose and maple syrup and molasses are about 50%. Maltose or malt sugar is another disaccharide.
Monosaccharides: Fructose, found in some fruit and vegetables (but usually along with other sugars), honey, nectar of flowers and some refined sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup. Also, glucose, aka dextrose.
Polyols: artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol and “stone” fruits like peaches, plums and even avocados.
Now, what’s the big deal about FODMAPs, you ask? In short, FODMAPs are poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates. As the bacteria tries to break them down, gases are created… and we all know how THAT feels! They can also cause diarrhea and are believed to be a major cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In fact, the low FODMAP diet was created for IBS patients, and that’s who it is primarily recommended for. However, more and more people with other digestive issues are beginning to try it out too. But why?
FODMAPs, interestingly, are very high in wheat and other gluten-containing grains, but are not found in gluten-free grains. Many people who are gluten-sensitive but do not have celiac disease might actually be reacting to FODMAPs. This might explain why some people are helped a little, but not entirely, by eliminating gluten from their diets. Other foods might also be at work wreaking havoc.
FODMAPs are also high in sugars, especially fructose. Many people who have trouble digesting sugars (fructose intolerant) might actually be reacting to the FODMAPs. That could explain why some people are gluten, lactose and fructose intolerant. As more research is conducted, scientists hope they’ll be able to understand which foods cause which people to react, and then create individualized diets for those with an assortment of digestive issues.
We still don’t know why some people are more sensitive than others to different components of food. The FODMAP diet is basically an elimination diet, where foods known to be high in FODMAPs are avoided and results noted. Then some foods are slowly reintroduced to determine which ones, if any, can be tolerated.
The list of high FODMAP foods is quite extensive and includes many otherwise healthy foods and some of my favorites. It’s an extreme diet, but worth trying if other diets have not helped. I’ll be discussing this diet in more detail in the future, but for now, remember that it is primarily designed to help those with IBS. It might benefit those with non-celiac gluten sensitivities and other undiagnosed digestive issues. It is NOT the latest weight-loss diet and in my view is not a diet to follow unless you really need to.
My general advice remains the same: eat wholesome foods that are as close to nature as possible. Listen to your own body. If something bothers you, don’t eat it.
If you feel like a low FODMAP diet might be beneficial to you, or if you want to work with me to simply develop healthier eating habits, lose weight or improve your general health, please contact me. I will gladly set up an initial nutrition session to discuss your concerns and goals, and steer you in the right direction in the midst of much confusing and sometimes conflicting dietary advice out there.
To purchase the most reliable FODMAP food App or to get the official and complete list, go to this website:
Amazon has a number of books (do a search for low FODMAP diet) for purchase online. Some of the references below give partial lists. I’ll be working on my own list to publish here at a later date.
Author: Bobbi Mullins, MS Holistic Nutrition, September 1, 2014
Is Gluten a Cause of Gastrointestinal Symptoms in People Without Celiac Disease? Jessica R. Biesiekierski & Jane G. Muir & Peter R. Gibson. Published online: 12 September 2013 # Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013 Monash University Low FODMAP Diet. Melbourne, Monash University. Available from: http://www.med.monash.edu.au/cecs/gastro/fodmap/
Classifications of Carbohydrates. Raw Food Explained. Available from:http://www.rawfoodexplained.com/carbohydrates/classifications-of-carbohydrates.html